Editorial: Relief package beckons for tourism industry

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It is no doubt that the tourism and aviation sectors of the economy have taken the hardest hit during on-going pandemic. Hotels, restaurants, guest houses are contemplating laying off staff with many complaining that the GH¢600 million stimulus package for SMEs will not be sufficient to even bail out the struggling travel and tour sector of the economy.

Well, it appears their woes will soon be over as the Country Director of the World Bank, Pierre Frank Laporte, has said money for Ghana’s tourism sector is now being finalised by the Bretton Wood institution.

He said the World Bank will be meeting with officials of the Ministry of Finance next week to finalise the agreement. That should bring relief to the tourism industry which is so crucial to the country’s well-being.

Hotel occupancy rates are down from 70 per cent to under 30 per cent and staff are being sent home. Scheduled international conferences in Ghana cancelled while transportation services have been among the worst hit due to social distancing, closure of schools, and ban on public gatherings.

Tourism across the African continent has always relied on international travelers. Tours along Ghana’s forts and castles have ceased, the safari vehicles that normally prowl East Africa’s Serengeti in the hunt for the perfect wildlife photograph are standing still, and luxury camps in Botswana’s Okavango Delta are gathering dust.

In 2019, Ghana raked in US$1.9 billion (€1.75 billion) from tourism, which contributed over 5.5% of GDP. At the beginning of 2020, Africa’s tourism sector looked set for a lucrative year. The continent had the world’s second fastest growing tourism industry and was projected to rake in billions of dollars but COVID-19 set in and turned everything upside down.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has stated that tourism is one of the most affected sectors from COVID-19, estimating that in 2020 global international tourist arrivals could decline between 20-30%, from an estimated growth forecast of 3-4% in January 2020.

This means a loss of US$30-50 billion in spending by international visitors. The tourism and travel sectors in Africa could lose at least US$50 billion and at least two million direct and indirect jobs. IATA estimates the economic contribution of the air transport industry in Africa at US$55.8 billion, supporting 6.2 million jobs.

For some LDC economies, tourism is likely the worst affected area and Ghana is no exception.

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